Monday, August 19, 2013

Humala’s Approval Ratings Keep Slipping

Things are not looking so good for Peru’s Ollanta Humala. After his state of the union address was overshadowed last month by a wave of protests in Lima, a new poll now suggests that support for the Peruvian president has fallen to record lows since he took office in July 2011.

According to an Ipsos Apoyo poll published on Sunday by El Comercio, support for Humala fell four points since the a previous survey in July, and now stands at 29 percent, compared with 62 percent disapproval and 9 percent with no opinion.

The poll also reflected the same popular discontent that sent people into the streets last month to protest a controversial nomination process, in which the main parties divvied up top government posts. The poll found overwhelming disapproval of Congress (81 percent unfavorable, 11 percent in favor), the judiciary (78 vs 13 percent) and members of Humala’s cabinet (with no official receiving an approval rating over 25 percent).

When asked why they were dissatisfied with the administration, 64 percent responded “because he doesn’t fulfill promises/is a liar,” 53 percent said “because there is no citizen security/ there is crime,” and 38 percent claimed it was because “prices are increasing.”

To be sure, some of this is inherent to the nature of Peruvian politics. As political scientist Steven Levitsky notes, no Peruvian president since 1997 has passed the two-year benchmark in office and maintained an approval rating over 50 percent. By this time in their terms, previous presidents Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia were both rated several points lower than Humala.

Even still, such a low approval rating endangers the president’s policy agenda and makes it harder for him to get things done. And Humala appears to be keenly aware of this. Today’s La Republica reports that the administration is adopting a “change in strategy,” repairing ties with Humala’s opposition on both the left and right in the hope of staving off political isolation.

One of the biggest challenges Humala faces in this process is opposition to Juan Jimenez, his cabinet chief. The Ipsos poll showed roughly 60 percent of the country held a negative opinion of him, and leaders of various political stripes have called for his immediate removal, but Jimenez has staunchly refused to resign and continues to have the full support of the president.

News Briefs

  • Although many analysts expected OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza to leave this post and run for senator in Chile’s November elections, Insulza announced in an interview on Sunday that this is not the case. Saying “I am not a candidate for anything,” he reminded journalists that his mandate will not end until 2015, and he does not expect to return to Chile before then. BBC Mundo notes that today is the deadline for him to register as a candidate.
  • On Saturday, the Mexican government announced that a military operation in the northeast of the country led to the arrest of Gulf Cartel head Mario Ramirez Treviño, alias “X20.” While the government refrained from giving details about the operation, El Universal reported that a major military presence and at least eight helicopters were spotted in the area in Tamaulipas state where Ramirez was captured. The operation marked the second arrest of a high-value target in little over a month, following the capture of Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40” on July 15. As both the Associated Press and NYT point out, these operations suggest Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is continuing the U.S.-backed strategy of going after kingpins, which he had strongly opposed before taking office. At the same time, however, Peña Nieto’s security policies do not amount to a direct continuation of his predecessor’s. Steve Dudley of InSight Crime argues that the arrest of Zeta and Gulf leaders are in line with the president’s promise to prioritize most violent actors of Mexico’s criminal underworld.
  • The New York Times profiles Jamaica’s relative success at fighting insecurity in recent years. While the country’s crime rate remains high, the murder rate has fallen by 40 percent since 2009. The paper notes that while the country has received a large amount of security aid from the U.S. government, relatively little of this has gone towards security forces. Instead, Jamaica’s success is attributed to an emphasis on community policing, violence reduction and combating corruption.
  • After it was revealed that Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes is the nephew of pilot Juan Domingo “Papacho” Viveros Cartes, who was detained last month in an anti-drug operation in Uruguay, the president has signaled that he supports a full investigation into the matter. Luis Rojas, the head of Paraguay's anti-drug agency, told reporters on Sunday that Cartes had instructed him to be “relentless” in pursuing Viveros, who is also wanted on drug charges in Paraguay.
  • Starting today, Colombia is facing its largest workers’ strike in years, with unions and trade associations from 12 different economic sectors taking part in the action and expected to set up roadblocks across the country, according to El Espectador and RCN Radio. Colombia’s Semana has an overview of the different actors behind the strike, which include small-scale farmers around the country as well as workers in the fields of transportation, health and mining. The magazine reports that the government of President Juan Manuel Santos attempted to negotiate with protest leaders in the lead-up to the strike, but says it will not engage in dialogue as long as the strike continues.
  • Reuters has an overview of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to ask the National Assembly for decree powers to continue a campaign against corruption, which the opposition dismisses as politically motivated. Maduro has not said when he would make the request, but   it would require support from 99 legislators, while the ruling PSUV has only 98 seats in Congress.
  • As the violence in Egypt grows, Venezuela has joined Ecuador in withdrawing its ambassador to the Middle Eastern country for consultation.
  • Spanish news agency EFE reports that Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled on August 6 to deny former dictator Efrain Rios Montt amnesty for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, a move which analysts described as a major blow to the “central strategy” of Rios Montt’s defense team. In spite of the decision, it is still unclear when proceedings against him will resume, after a guilty verdict was annulled last May. 

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